On Ethics and Opportunism in Science

On Ethics and Opportunism in Science

3 May 2011


(Concerning Hayk Demoyan’s Karabakh and Turkey’s Genocidal Attempts)

On March 10 of the current year an article by Hayk Demoyan, Kandidat (Ph.D.) of Historical Sciences and Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia (AGMI), entitled “Karabakh and Turkey’s Genocidal Attempts” was widely disseminated by e-mail by the same institute in three languages (Armenian, Russian and English). On the same day the article was also published on the websites of AGMI as well as ASPAREZ Online daily in LA.

Any article, especially in foreign languages, claiming the authority of AGMI, should meet the strictest criteria of academic accountability and ethics since the Museum-Institute, its very name, title and location (Tsitsernakaberd), are of a paramount importance for our statehood and the entire Armenian people. Unfortunately, this relatively short article (1233 words in its English version), which has been internationally disseminated, is deficient in many respects, including incorrect representations of historical facts, opportunistic interpretations, violations of scientific ethics, unsubstantiated conclusions, pseudo-scientific forms… In addition, the English version of this article is very poor – to put it mildly – and thoroughly inadequate for a scientific-academic piece by AGMI.

Firstly, the very formulation of the question is unscientific, namely posing the problem of Turkish genocidal attempts in Artsakh (Karabakh) in isolation from the general policy of the Sublime Porte implemented towards Armenia and the Armenian people. In particular the author unjustly singles out Ottoman attempts to suppress the Karabakh Armenians’ resistance of the 1720s ignoring the identical policy of the Turks against neighbouring Syunik, Yerevan and other Armenian regions and settlements. Demoyan is also disorderly, confusing and wordy when he makes the following groundless conclusion: “The Turkish approaches towards the solution of Karabakh issue in the historical and modern dimensions in some way turned Karabakh into a polygon for approbation and implementation of genocidal policies by Sultans, Young Turks and Kemalists/Republicans”. However, Karabakh could not represent “a polygon for approbation and implementation of genocidal policies” by the Turks if only because during the historical periods in question (the 1720s, 1918-21 and the 1990s) in this mountainous Armenian province there were Armenian armed forces, which, as Demoyan himself admits, offered effective resistance against Ottoman and Azerbaijani forces. Therefore viewing the Turkish genocidal attempts in Karabakh in isolation is anti-historical and is dictated by the desire to adapt to the present political moment. The opportunistic way of thinking leads Demoyan to the politically bankrupt and highly detrimental position of representing Armenia and Karabakh as separate countries. Here is the evidence taken from Demoyan’s article: “The Thrkish (sic! should be Turkish – G.Y.) interference in Karabakh conflict and the open support to Azerbaijan in the war against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia…,” “Permanent military menace and attempts at escalation, the blockade of Armenia and the efforts to isolate Armenia from the regional and international politics created a direct threat towards Armenia and Karabakh.” Isn’t the Director of AGMI not aware that Karabakh is part of Armenia in every respect, whether ethnically or economically, culturally or linguistically, historically and, after all, militarily, not to mention the 1989 December 1 Declaration of Unification which to date has not been rescinded? Is Demoyan unaware that Armenia, as a concept that defines the Armenian homeland, includes the Republic of Armenia (RA) and the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR), as well as Armenian territories occupied by its neighbours (unfortunately there are too many in the upper echelons of RA authorities and their legion of palace-serving “experts” who differentiate and separate the concepts of “Armenia” and “Artsakh-Karabakh”). In fact, by representing Karabakh as a separate country, Demoyan, willingly or not, is supporting a pseudo-historical thesis and as such is preparing the ground for the dangerous and nation-destroying projects of external forces who, at first, would separate NKR from RA, and Artsakhtsis from those Armenians living out of NKR, and then set them off against each other.

Secondly, Mr. Demoyan violates the basic norms of scientific ethics, ignoring the monograph The Armenian Rebellion of the 1720s and the Threat of Genocidal Reprisal (Yerevan, 1997) by Armen Ayvazyan, Doctor of Political Sciences. In this monograph, for the first time in the Armenian historiography, a hypothesis was put forth, which posited that it was in the 1720s that the leading circles of the Ottoman Empire came up with plans and intentions for the complete extermination of the Armenians throughout the territory of Armenia (both Eastern and Western). Ayvazyan proved this hypothesis on the basis of an impressive corps of multilingual primary sources and historical literature. Among the main reasons for the formation of such sentiment Ayvazyan indicates a fierce military resistance against the Ottoman armies in Artsakh, Syunik, Yerevan, Lori and some other centers of the Armenian national liberation movement. According to Ayvazyan, genocidal mentality and ideology originally accompanied the public policy of the Ottoman Empire and were supported by well-developed mechanisms for their implementation. One of these mechanisms was a fatwa – legal religious decision by the Supreme Islamic clergy.

In short, the monograph by Ayvazyan – which, incidentally, has long been referred to in scholarly circles, repeatedly reviewed and fully posted on the Internet – presents and analyzes exactly the topics, which Demoyan touches upon in his article dated March 10, 2011. In particular, in his aforementioned book Ayvazyan examines the resistance put up in Karabakh (and Syunik!) against Ottoman armies, destruction and loss of the latter in the 1720s (pp. 4-20); the intentions to eliminate the Armenian population (pp. 21-32); the confession of the captured Ottoman military commander Saleh Pasha (pp. 39-40). In fact, the whole book by Ayvazyan puts forth and explores the issues, which Demoyan discusses while presenting them as the fruit of his original thought, without referring to the work done prior to his article.

In the chapter entitled “Ottoman Decision-Making and Exercise on Extermination During the 1720s” (pp. 33-36), for the first time in Armenian historiography Ayvazyan presented and analyzed the fatwas (legal religious rulings issued by a mufti) of the 1720s on the destruction of the Shiite and Christian populations.

Meanwhile, without referring to Ayvazyan’s book, Demoyan writes: “In 1725 Sultan Ahmet III (1703-1730) issued a special fatwa to exterminate Armenians for their successful resistance against the Ottomans and ordered to kill them all for bringing the Russians into the Caucasus and blocking the access of the Ottomans towards Baku.”
Here Demoyan makes a double mistake:

a)      The Sultan could not issue a fatwa, because this was the exclusive prerogative of the supreme spiritual authority of the Ottoman Empire – the Grand Mufti (whose title was Sheikh ul-Islam) – to whom the Sultan would turn with any question of national importance. After a fatwa had been issued, it would automatically come into force and even the Sultan had no right to revoke it.

b)      Historical evidence on a specific fatwa published in 1725 about the extermination of the Armenians does not exist or has not yet been discovered. We know only about two such fatwas issued in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1723 and 1730, respectively. Both fatwas were directed primarily against the Shiites of Persia, and, to a lesser extent – against the Christians (see Ayvazyan, op. cit., pp. 33-36).

Demoyan quotes a statement made by the Ottoman commander Saleh pasha, captured by Armenians in Karabakh in 1725, in which he spoke (without giving any exact date) of the Sultan’s “order” to exterminate the Armenians and the Shiites. But any Armenian historian, especially the Director of such a major institution as AGMI, should know that an order of Sultan and a fatwa are two very different things! It should be noted that the confession of Saleh Pasha is fully cited and interpreted in Ayvazyan’s book (pp. 39-40). Numerous repetitions of the arguments and facts found in Ayvazyan’s book, without ever mentioning his name, are a cause for serious reflection…
In his analysis of the confession of Salah-pasha, Ayvazyan specifically invites the reader’s attention to the geostrategic role of a “wedge” played by the Armenian armed forces in Syunik and Artsakh (as opposed to Artsakh only, as written by Demoyan in his consideration of the present-day political situation). Ayvazyan writes: “The Armenian Seghnakhs – being in a position to cut off at any time the important lines of communication between Ottoman troops and their Sunni allies, the Caucasian mountaineers then occupying certain regions in Eastern Transcaucasia – represented a real obstacle to Ottoman expansionism” (p. 39). Demoyan’s interpretation is similar: “In this 18th century document we see the formation of the Turkish approaches towards ‘non-obedient’ Armenians, who as it was stated, were like a wedge between Istanbul and the Turkic East.”
Ayvazyan also quotes an interesting excerpt from a letter by Yeghia Vardapet Martirossian of Constantinople (1665-1757), written by him on March 9, 1725, in Constantinople and addressed to Mekhitar Sebastatsi (1676-1749), the founder and Abbot General of the Mekhitarist Order (pp. 28-29). The letter states that Sultan Ahmed III, “being extremely troubled with the Armenians because of [the] Persia[n events], has many times ordered the total extermination of the Armenians; however, the mufti did not [agree to] issue an order to exterminate the Armenians.” In the same monograph Ayvazyan stated that Saleh Pasha was captured in Karabakh by Armenians on March 3-4, 1725 (pp. 20, 70, note 72). The letter by Yeghia Vardapet is dated March 9, 1725, which implies that at the time of the interrogation of Saleh Pasha there was no special fatwa in existence that would say something about the extermination of the Armenians. However, despite the absence of such a fatwa, during the 1720s hundreds of thousands of Armenians in Eastern Armenia (and not just Karabakh) still suffered massacres, deportations and captivity.

I think the foregoing is enough to make it clear that Mr. Demoyan was simply obliged to refer to Ayvazyan’s The Armenian Rebellion of the 1720s and the Threat of Genocidal Reprisal, because this study, as mentioned earlier, posed and professionally examined the issues touched on by Demoyan later in his article of March 10, 2011. Given the fact of copyright violation by the Director of AGMI, it looks ironic that AGMI’s newsletter was accompanied by the following note in three languages: “All rights reserved. Articles of the AGMI web-site must be used with reference to the site.”
The National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia must take serious measures with regard to the above mentioned breach of scientific ethics by Mr. Demoyan and all other similar cases, which have widely spread in the pseudo-scientific world during the recent years. If we really wish RA science to have a future, it is necessary to give the strictest and most impartial assessment of any of the widespread violations of scientific ethics. Let me remind you that just a month ago the Defense Minister of Germany, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, was deprived of both his doctoral degree and political office due to the fact that he borrowed passages from various publications and speeches in his dissertation, without providing any appropriate references. The German press nicknamed the frustrated Minister Mr. Copy-Paste.

Thirdly, the article by Mr Demoyan in all its versions (Armenian, Russian and English) is literally riddled, to put it mildly, with linguistic flaws and unsuccessful constructions of thought, unacceptable even for a student essay. For these claims not to sound unfounded or unsubstantiated, here are just a few examples from the English version of the article (in the Armenian and Russian versions of this critique similar examples are given from the Armenian and Russian versions of Demoyan’s article):

  1. In the following quotation of Saleh Pasha, the word “sea” is misspelled, while the verb “assault” is used incorrectly with the preposition “on,” which should be omitted:

“’Sultan ordered to exterminate Armenians and Persians (Shia’s – H. D.), since the troops of the Russian Tsar had occupied that shore of the (Caspian) see, thus we have to assault on them.’”

  1. Re-reading of the following long passage, even several times, still does not help one to grasp the author’s idea:

From the historical point of view Turkey’s current stance and attempts to put preconditions to Armenia and the policy of pressure with the intent to get necessary concessions from Armenia in the settlement of Karabakh issue seem very actual; moreover, the references to the historical records are important in shedding a light on the origins of the ‘Turkish strategy’ in Karabakh issue.”

  1. In the following (again, very long) sentence, Demoyan thrice uses the word “attempt” and twice – the word “direct/directly:”

“We are not going to claim that the third attempt was a direct policy of an extermination of Karabakh Armenians, but Turkey’s strong support to Azerbaijan in the latter’s attempts at deportation and the crimes against humanity enable us to claim that Turkey was directly involved in a new attempt of committing genocide against the Armenians in Karabakh.”

  1. Perhaps only Demoyan and his political backers know how Turkey could become a “part” of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict; note also the misspelling of the word “Turkish;” furthermore, the definite article “the” is superfluous in the following passage:

The Thrkish interference in Karabakh conflict and the open support to Azerbaijan in the war against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia made Turkey more a part of the conflict rather than the [sic!] its settlement.”

  1. Demoyan unnecessarily abuses specific terminology (Pax Ottomanica, zero problems, Realpolitik) and again falls into tautology, twice using the phrase “history;” the comma after “since is used incorrectly, so is the definite article “the” before “history:”

“Turkey must recognize the Genocide committed against Armenians and many other nations in the ‘Pax Ottomanica’ since, [sic!] the rewriting of the [sic!] history is necessary to make ‘zero problem’ with its own history and memory since Realpolitik is not a solution for the country’s current national identity crisis.”

  1. In the first sentence of the following passage Demoyan argues that Turkey had actively participated in the Karabakh war, while the next sentence describes Turkey as its “passive witness:”

“It is enough to say that hundreds of soldiers and officers of the Turkish regular army, including 10 generals were involved in the military operations performed against the Armenian self-defense forces. And again Turkey was loser in Karabakh, this time together with Azerbaijan and became a passive spectator of the Baku’s humiliated defeats in 1992-1994.”

We have serious doubts about the number of Turkish generals (as many as 10!) who, in accordance with Demoyan, took part “in military operations against the self-defense units of the Karabakh Armenians.” The Azerbaijani army simply would not have enough troops for 10 Turkish generals! The reader is left wondering where Demoyan fished out those deliberately exaggerated data.
Of course, the findings and conclusions of Demoyan are not justified by his chaotic two-page text. Thus, he concludes, “Nation states of Turkey and Azerbaijan were formed as a result of the extermination of other nations; thus, this fact represents one of the main threats for the future of both states.”
Having great reservations about the notion of Turkey as a nation-state, one cannot avoid posing the question: since when has Azerbaijan become a nation-state, if the Azerbaijani nation is just beginning to emerge from the multi-ethnic elements residing in the territory of the modern Republic of Azerbaijan? On the other hand, the author does not specify – exactly what and when is going to be “the main threat” for the future of Turkey and Azerbaijan? Contrary to the opinion of Demoyan, we are witnessing the fact that genocides can lead to disastrous consequences for the victim populations, and not always for states which committed them. The Armenian people have long been reaping the bitter fruits of the first and still unpunished genocide of the twentieth century and today it is on the verge of death (it is enough to mention the fatal fact that two thirds of Armenians are living abroad, outside the national political and military authority, which in essence means assimilation – the “white genocide”). To unreasonably write about some vague “threats” for the future fate of Turkey and Azerbaijan is nothing but wishful thinking, childish prattle, an illusion that has nothing to do with science.
Errors are committed also in references to the sources that Demoyan uses. The title of his own book in Russian “Turkey and the Karabakh conflict” is written with a spelling error. Moreover, this error is presented both in Armenian and Russian versions of the article, which indicates the excellent mastering of the Copy-Paste technology by the author… Moreover, stating the year of publication of his book (“Turkey and the Karabakh conflict in the late XX – early XXI century: Historical and Comparative Analysis.” – Yerevan, Author’s edition, 2006) as 1995 instead of 2006, Demoyan pushed back the time of its edition over 11 years (!). What is this – negligence, serious problems with the author’s memory or deliberate fraud?
Finally, I would like to note that Mr. Demoyan should have written the article about the genocidal policy of Turkey a little bit earlier – during the “honeymoon” of the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. After all, “attempts to put preconditions to Armenia” (this poor English is Demoyan’s) do not represent just Turkey’s present position on the issue, as Demoyan is trying to convince his readers. Turkey’s preconditions emerged from the moment of recognition of the independence of RA. This is proved by the strategically consistent insistence of Turkey on refusing to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia. It is commonly known that Demoyan was a fervent supporter of the stillborn “football diplomacy” and practically the only Armenian historian, who happily supported the political leadership of RA in its thoughtless agreement to establish Turkish-Armenian joint commission of historians. The opportunism in politics is sometimes forced, while opportunism in science is always immoral.
P.S. I think it is absolutely unacceptable that the title of AGMI newsletter – Museum G-Brief, Electronic Periodical of the Armenian Genocide Museum & Institute, Yerevan, Armenia appears in English only (no Armenian title for the newsletter exists). Who gave the right to the AGMI leadership to violate article 12 of the Constitution of RA and the “Law on Language” of RA, the first article of which declares that the state language of RA (I want to emphasize – the only state language) is Armenian and “serves all the spheres of the republic” (my italics – G.Y.). Besides, in AGMI’s e-bulletins, which are distributed all over the world, the National Academy of Sciences of RA is presented not as a superior structure to AGMI, but exactly the opposite – as a division accountable to AGMI: National Academy of Sciences of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute

Imitating the popular Armenian song, we can conclude by saying: “This is how we lead the research institute on the Armenian Genocide…”


Kandidat of Historical Sciences (Ph.D. in History)

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